OFFERINGS/OFFRANDES - An Installation by France Trépanier

Estelle Marcoux
OFFERINGS/OFFRANDES - An Installation by France Trépanier
Open Space, 510 Fort Street, 2nd floor
Friday, January 15, 2016, 7:00 pm to Saturday, February 20, 2016, 5:00 pm

GUEST ARTISTS: Charles Campbell, Cathi Charles Wherry, Krystal Cook, Bradley Dick, Farheen HaQ
OPENING: Friday, January 15, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
ARTIST TALK: Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.
The holiday season is behind us for another year.  Some of us loved it; others recoiled at its many pressures.  Did you feel that there just too many presents? 
OFFERINGS/OFFRANDES invites us to contemplate ‘presence’ instead of presents, when we consider the gifting process.  What is a gift?   Is the most important consideration its price, its market-value?  Does a gift have to be bought?    What is an offering?  Why do we make them?  What is our intention when we offer them?  Should we be attached to whether or not an offering is accepted?
Performative rituals, longhouse and website
Five artists accepted Trépanier’s invitation to collaboratively create and record an offering. The videos were edited and are then presented in a loop. In their own words, each guest artist describes their offering. These videos and accompanying photographs were shot by media artist Kirk Schwartz.
A longhouse is the central element of the installation. The presence of this Aboriginal architectural structure within a contemporary art space carries a symbolic charge. This longhouse marks the territory. It speaks of Indigenous traditional land, of nomadism, of protected space during a journey. The contemporary rendition of the structure is inspired by Aboriginal traditional methods. It was created in collaboration with Rene Martin, a senior Mi’gmaq artist from the Listuguj community in Gaspé, Quebec.
This website acts as a receptacle, a guardian of images and sounds inspired by the rituals associated with giving/offering. The community is invited to contribute to this collective artwork by making an offering, which they can submit for uploading. Short contributions such as videos, photos, text or music are welcomed at:
Charles Campbell, Elletson Road (2m. 36s.) 2015
In late 2014 a man in his early 60’s walked into my studio in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. “You have any work for me?” His quiet demeanour was disarming and within a few minutes we were working side-by-side repairing the walls and repainting the once derelict space. We worked well together and quickly developed a friendship. After a while he began telling me of his exploits on the Jamaica Constabulary force.
He informed me that he was an officer during the seventies and a member of a special “jump squad” tasked with 
“eradicating criminal elements.” During our time together, he related detailed accounts of extra-judicial killings, told stories of his childhood as well as his personal tragedies and took me on a tour of pertinent places in Kingston. Elletson Road offers the act of listening to his offering.
Krystal Cook, The Grandmothers are Dancing in My Hair (2m.1s.) 2015
First the inspiration comes. I feel a tingle in my tummy. The energy starts to well up. I get excited.  Words and images start to flow in my blood memory. My tongue begins to dance. I have just finished letting a woman perform reiki on me. She works on my whole body and brings healing energy to the feminine side of my body as it is not as strong as my male side she says. She has detected the heartache I carry in my body from when I moved to Victoria from my village as a child. She has helped me to free the trauma.
I feel a poem coming on. As I am laying on the table being worked on, I begin to see the Grandmothers and they are dancing in my hair. It is a gorgeous, fun, playful image and it makes me happy. Giddy with laughter. I feel light, moved by the energy we have exchanged. I get to my computer and begin to write. The Grandmothers are Dancing in My Hair is the title and first line. Yes! I am in the zone. I feel the words tingling my skin to write the imagery alive. “They are weaving and braiding a waltz of warmth and sadness of secrets and rainbows.” This one is flowing smoothly. “Slow. Suave. Molassy. Electric.” Aaah, I’m in the flow.
I humbly offer this poem The Grandmothers are Dancing in My Hair from my one-woman theatre show Emergence, in honour and celebration of all the Grandmothers, and the integral, pivotal role they have played in our survival and our resiliency. I pay homage to the Grandmother I knew (Nellie Cook née Hamilton) and my Grandmothers (Jenny McDougall & Jane Cook née Wanukw) that I did not get to meet.  
Cathi Charles Wherry, Offering Back (2m. 31s.) 2015
10 years ago we went to the mountain Ribbons of Red, Yellow, Black and White We said Miigwech, Lim Limpt to the Earth for her generosityWe asked her to remember usRocks round with memoryPulled my hand to themImagined themselves into my pocket Into my home, like prayersRock on rockGround to soft powder wishing to be paint Stains my flesh as I wrap and carry Each one back to the horizons that surround us.
Bradley Dick, K’owaht (2m. 38s.) 2015
I am Yuxwelupton, I am Lkwungen, Ditadaht, Mamalilikulla. It is with great humility that I accept to participate with Open Space and France Trépanier as part of this offering.
Today our Lkwungen ancestors and family have winter ceremonies annually. During these ceremonies you will hear the hand drums echoing through the lands. Ceremonies evolve and are influenced by external communities. This rings true for our community as we didn’t always use the hide hand drums. In the past, in a Coast Salish bighouse, we had our K’owaht, which was a hollowed out cedar plank. It would be placed in the very first row. The drummers would have used the cedar plank during our winter ceremonies.  The sound was powerful, resonating in a way that is deeply rooted in our traditions. My curiosity as a drummer had me pondering whether I could make one and what it would sound like. 
I satisfied my curiosity by making a smaller version of the K’owaht. The song itself is new, but the teachings behind it are old. The essence is Natsa’maht “to work with one heart and one mind.” It speaks to our commitment as humans working together to strengthen the path for our next generations. If you can learn this song, you can sing it. It is a celebration song and my only request is that you let people know where it comes from—the Lkwungen people.
I raise my hands to France and the other folks participating in offering. I raise my hands to all who supported and made this journey possible.
Hay’sxw’qa Si’em 
Farheen HaQ, Drinking from my mother’s saucer (2m. 9s.) 2015
My first memory of chai is drinking the warm spiced tea from my mother’s saucer.   She would pour it into her saucer so it would cool and I would relish having this grown up drink, curled up next to my mother and her warm loving body.  
39 years later, the offering of chai is a tradition that continues in my life. I am the child, I am also now the mother, pouring chai not into a saucer, but into a bone china teacup. This delicate cup is a gift from my children’s British great-grandfather, made from buffalo bones. 
The buffalo was a great provider: giving up its entire body for food, clothing and shelter to the people of the Plains. This teacup becomes a stand-in for the personal body and the collective body. The sacrificed, the sacrificial. The tea becomes the drum, calling out the stories of pain and abundance. My heart beating, my ears ready, I call forth the buffalo… 
And in the sound of the buffalos hooves I have visions: my father moving from India to Pakistan after a violent partition, my children’s feet 
pitter-pattering on the floor safely here on Vancouver Island, the great loss of the Indigenous peoples here, the trauma of my own family violence, my complicity in colonization and my own ancestors colonized. Without this complexity I could not find compassion. 
Gratitude is part of any offering. My art practice, where I mine personal history and trauma, offers me the possibility of transformation, from suffering and pain to healing and wholeness.
My deep gratitude to France Trépanier for inviting me to make an offering and for the ensuing conversation and friendship. Many thanks to Kirk Schwarz for his creative and technical support.
Gilakasla (thank you), Hay’sxw’qa si’em (thank you Honorable ones), Klecko klecko (thank you).


As an artist and curator of Kanien’keha:ka and French ancestry, I would like to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Lekwungen people where this exhibition is presented. I would like to thank the WSÁNE? (Saanich) people on whose traditional territory I have lived for the past 15 years.
In 2005, I had the opportunity to participate in a 7-week Aboriginal New Works Residency at the Banff Centre. During that period, I created a two-part installation piece entitled Vessels. The vessel is the central object in this installation. The first part is contemplative. It is composed of 4 video projections and 4 large wax vessels. The second part is participative. It is composed of 144 small wax vessels placed on the ground.
During every exhibition of Vessels, visitors are invited to bring an object of cultural significance to be placed in one of the bowls. The meaning of each object is affected or transformed by the presence of other peoples’ objects. Their objects have stories attached to them—sometimes extraordinary stories. They have spirit. The objects and their journeys become part of the gift.
In an unplanned and unforeseen way, some people use the installation as a safe place to make an offering. And as they do, the installation transforms. Not only do the objects visually interact with each other, but each ‘aura’, each story starts to inhabit the installation. Instinctively, visitors lower their voice when entering the exhibition space.
I was emotionally overwhelmed by the stories that were told to me. This led me to explore the meaning of gifting and offering from different cultural perspectives. And so in 2012, during a residency at artist-run centre Vaste et Vague in Gespe’gewa’gi (Gaspé Peninsula, Québec), I created and exhibited, for the first time, a new installation Offerings / Offrandes.
Offerings / Offrandes is grounded in collaborative authorship. It pays homage to relational aesthetics. It welcomes the presentation and interpretation of practices rooted in different cultures. The installation is space-based.  It establishes a connection to specific artists and their communities—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—that inhabit this land.
In many Aboriginal cultures, offerings are gestures filled with spiritual, social and political meaning. We offer a feast to the members of the community or to visitors. We offer stories. We offer songs to the plants that we harvest and to animals that feed us. We offer tobacco to elders, to spirits. Offerings were at the heart of the exchanges that took place during contact with Europeans. We offered refuge. We offered knowledge of the territory. We offered medicine to cure the newcomers. We offered to share the land.
Offerings are also present in many different cultures. They are based in the spirit of giving without a time frame or self-interest. They can take the form of rituals, of ceremonies or of communal exchanges. They are sometimes private gestures.
With Offerings / Offrandes it is my intention to create a gathering space and engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences to consider what has been offered in the past and what can now be offered, both individually and collectively.
–France Trépanier


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